Testosterone (T) is a hormone most commonly associated with manliness, but women's bodies also make testosterone. Too little testosterone in men or too much in women can indicate serious health problems. It also can create traits that are unusual for your gender.
The testicles make testosterone in men, and the ovaries produce the hormone in women. Testosterone (T) is responsible for traits such a body hair, muscle mass, and strength. Men with low levels of testosterone might notice a reduction in these traits, while too much testosterone in females can cause them to develop these traits.
You may consider a testosterone level test to determine if your testosterone levels fall within a normal range.
Normal and Abnormal Levels
A normal testosterone level range for men is 300 to 1,000 nanograms per deciliter. For women, it’s between 15 and 70 nanograms per deciliter.
The most common testosterone problem in men is hypogonadism, also called low testosterone. Signs and symptoms that cause many men to see a doctor include:
- decreased sex drive
- inability to achieve an erection
- inability to conceive a child
- overall tiredness
Your testosterone level may be abnormally low if you experience these symptoms.
Women with too much T may grow facial hair, develop a deeper voice, or experience decreased breast size. Acne can also be the result of too much T in women. Too much T in women can be the result of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which can make it difficult to get pregnant and halt menstruation.
Abnormally high or low levels of testosterone in men and women can point to other serious conditions. Levels that are too high can indicate ovarian or testicular cancer. Low levels can indicate chronic illness or a problem with the pituitary gland, which releases hormones.
In infant boys and girls, signs of testosterone problems may be more extreme. Testosterone tests are often ordered for boys and girls who aren’t developing properly. Parents may observe delayed puberty in boys and girls. Boys with low T may grow slowly, with no body hair and poorly developed muscles. Girls with high T may have delayed menstruation and/or excessive body hair. Boys can also have high levels of testosterone and enter puberty early and robustly.
Too Much T: Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia
Sometimes too much T is the result of a condition known as congenital adrenal hyperplasia. This testosterone overload can result in males having a larger-than-normal penis and females having abnormal genitalia at birth. Depending on the severity, it may cause men to have a very deep voice and women to grow facial hair.
It can be diagnosed early in infants because it causes dehydration, poor feeding habits, and other symptoms. People with this disorder may have stunted growth, even though they may be tall when they’re children.
How Is a Testosterone Test Performed?
Getting checked for testosterone levels requires nothing more than a simple blood test. The test is usually performed in the morning, when T levels are highest. Sometimes the test needs to be retaken for accurate measurements.
Before the test, your doctor may ask you to stop taking any prescriptions that could affect your testosterone levels. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may also perform a physical examination.
What Else Might Be Impacting My Testosterone?
Liver problems, alcohol abuse, and steroid medications can lower the amount of testosterone in your body. Other medications, such as anticonvulsants, can raise your testosterone levels.
Call your doctor and get a testosterone test if you suspect that your hormone levels are abnormal, or if your children have development problems. A wide range of treatment is available.